By Hannah Torregoza
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing into law of the 2019 national budget saying there is also legal basis for him to veto the P95.3-billion worth of questionable appropriations.
Drilon said the President’s action finds legal basis in the case of the late Senator Joker Arroyo against then House Speaker Jose De Venecia, where the Supreme Court ruled that “the attestations by the Speaker of the House and the Senate President serve as a solemn assurance that the measure was indeed passed by Congress.”
“The assurance given by Senate President (Vicente) Sotto, (III) in this case, was qualified,” Drilon said.
“The Senate President only attested to the approval of that portion of the bill not affected by the realignments,” he pointed out.
Drilon said the President’s line item veto “is based on legal and constitutional grounds, and not because the President sided with the Senate.”
“You will recall that SP Sotto’s qualified attestation of the Senate’s passage of the budget was the formula I suggested that enabled the President to sign the budget,” Drilon stressed.
Duterte signed the budget on Monday but vetoed the P95.3-billion items of appropriations detailed in the Department of Public Works and Highways programs and projects.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said the amount was not within the programmed priorities.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the signing of the budget bill is a “reflection of the administration’s vision of genuine change for the Philippines, where effective and efficient delivery of programs, projects and public services for our people will be its hallmark.”
True to his commitment and constitutional duty to be fealty to the constitutional directives, the President vetoed items of appropriation that are either considered by law and jurisprudence as rider provisions not being related to a particular appropriation or they seek to amend the Constitution and certain statutes,” Panelo said.
Sotto, Senators Panfilo Lacson and Sherwin Gatchalian lauded the President’s move and described it as “a victory for the Filipino taxpayers.”
Lacson, a known crusader against pork barrel, commended the President and his economic managers “for coming up with a ‘pork-free’ budget.”
Gatchalian said he is relieved that the budget has finally been signed into law as further delay would have caused adverse effects to the country’s economy.
“The veto is proof that the Senate was right all along in saying that the changes made were unconstitutional,” Gatchalian said.